Did You Know, The Indian Football team was at its peak from 1948 to 1964 when the Indian football team played four Olympics and won two gold medals
The 50s and 60s era of the Indian football team are regarded as a spearhead of the Golden generation.
The team trembled and tiptoed its way to 16 years of a glorious run in world football. An era that football fans are eagerly waiting to witness again. While the current Indian football team buckles up to quality for FIFA and other important leagues.
Here’s a glimpse of the 5 legends of Indian Football that have impacted the game on a worldwide notch,
1. Sailen Manna – Indian Football team’s first leader
When we talk about captains and leaders in the Indian football team, we mostly have coined this term for Sunil Chhetri but the contribution of Sailen Manna is no different.
Part of the first Indian Olympics in 1948, Sailen Manna grew up to be one of the greatest captains the Indian football team ever had.
In 1951, he led India to its first Asian gold medal and laid the foundation for the next generation to follow, which included PK Banerjee, Chuni Goswami, and Company.
A strong left-back, Manna also became a teammate and photographed her well. But it was his calmness on the field that made him a great leader and inspiration for other players.
Manna was on the verge of capturing India at the 1950 FIFA World Cup before the All India Football Federation (AIFF) decided not to take part in it at the last minute.
2. Chuni Goswami – An All-Round Sporting Sensation
If you were a sports fanatic who grew up in the 1960s in Kolkata, you would have heard of the famous Chuni Goswami. Among the outstanding players wearing the national jersey during the Indian football team’s golden era, Goswami was a musician on the field.
In addition to leading the Indian team to a gold medal at the 1962 Asian Games, he would also have his second professional cricket career, playing 46 home games in the Ranji Trophy and almost joining the national team.
Chuni Goswami despite not having physical built, or ability to finish that PK Banerjee brought to the table. But what made him so different was his ability to get on the field and penetrate the opponent’s defense, which helped him play as a ‘playmaker’.
3. PK Goswami – The Man With Golden Feet
PK Banerjee was part of India’s semi-final at the 1956 Games and went on to captain India at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
PK, as it was affectionately called, participated in three Asian Games, and played a key role in winning the gold of the Indian national football team through the 1962 program, emerging as the team’s leading scorer.
The concept of the PK game was also uncommon, which helped him stand out on the field and become a successful coach after retirement. Banerjee, who died in 2020, was a mentor to people like Baichung Bhutia during his administrative career.
Recipient of the FIFA Centennial Order of Merit, PK Banerjee has been honored as the 20th Century Indian Football Player by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS).
4. Baichung Bhutia – Inspired The Entire Generation To Play Football
Bhutia has encouraged every generation to take up the game of soccer. Whenever anyone thinks of the Indian football team, the first word that comes to mind is Baichung Bhutia. Baichung has been one of the few Indian footballers to make the game popular in India. He encouraged the whole generation to embrace the game.
Baichung Bhutia became the first Indian player to sign a professional contract with a European club when he signed a 3-year contract with Bury.
Baichung made his debut for the Indian National team against 19-year-old Thailand. Bhutia scored his first goal in a similar tournament against Uzbekistan and became the top scorer as well as the youngest indian international goalscorer. The record was later broken by Jerry Zirsanga.
Baichung, known for playing crucial role in big games hit an amazing hattrick and destroyed Amal Dutta’s famous diamond formation. Baichung is still the only East Bengal player to score a hat-trick in the Kolkata derby after his name.
5. Sunil Chhetri – India’s Greatest Striker
A Modern Day Legend and amongst the top 5 international scorer of all time. Sunil Chettri needs no introduction.
Born in Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh on August 3, 1984, football ran the Chhetri family as her father, Kharga Chhetri playing Indian Army football with her mother, Sushila Chhetri played for the Nepalese Women’s National Team and her twin sisters. So a football maestro was introduced to the game from the earliest days of his life.
Chhetri has won the prestigious All India Football Federation (AIFF) Player of the Year four times in 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2014 for his exemplary form and the success of his team in the indian football team. In 2007, he was India’s top scorer in the Nehru Cup and led the team to a 4-goal victory. In 2011, he scored 11 goals in 20 team games and 13 goals in 17 international games. In the same year, he was also awarded the Arjuna Award for his outstanding performance in the National Games. He is only footballer to win a Major Dhyanchand Khel Ratna award.
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